Anna Friel ‘almost pulled out’ of Marcella and had to ‘work hard’ on character

Anna Friel has said she almost pulled out of crime thriller Marcella because she was unsure if she could compete with others who have portrayed female detectives on screen.

The actress is reprising the role of DS Marcella Backland in a second series of ITV’s noir detective show, which was a ratings success during its first outing in 2016.

She said it was a “relief” to see how popular it had been because she “almost pulled out of it” after accepting the role.

Anna Friel in Marcella (ITV)

Friel told reporters: “I just thought, ‘Oh God, how can I do this, there’s so many amazing female detectives that have done it so well, I don’t know what I can offer differently.’ So I had to really work hard on that.

“I think when it was received as well as it was, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I have done something that is different and I’ve got my own ownership and my own stamp on it.’ That was very nice.”

The programme follows London-based detective Marcella, who suffers from fugues, or blackouts.

The new series starts a few months on from where the first series ended, and Marcella has gone without a blackout for some time.

When a body is discovered inside a wall, a devastated Marcella soon works out that it is that of schoolboy Leo Priestley, who was abducted a few years beforehand and was a friend of her own son.

Friel, who won an International Emmy Award in November for her role as Marcella, said that working on the Nordic-style crime drama means having to prepare for the “quite harrowing” filming process.

“With this one, because you don’t want to go ‘poor me, it’s so hard’, you have to be truthful in your performance, and the thoughts that the camera captures, and you have to go there,” she said.

“So you have to just mentally prepare and think that for four and a half months I’m not going to be the happiest bunny.”

Having found fame in the mid-1990s in soap opera Brookside, Friel said that having had a long career means she has experienced “so many” instances of abusive behaviour.

However, she told Radio Times magazine: “It’s not had an effect on me, apart from it’s made me very, very strong.”

Friel said she “refused to comment” when, in October last year, it was reported that she had fled a dinner with former Amazon Studios boss Roy Price after he allegedly made unwanted advances towards her.

“It wasn’t something that was big enough to talk about,” she said.

“I’m a very strong girl, I know how to handle myself, and I didn’t report that story, it was bystanders and onlookers. But I don’t want to add fuel to the story.

“I am very, very, very much in solidarity with anybody who has been put into a horrific situation, in all areas of life, but it wasn’t something that damaged me enough to give comment to.

“I’ve got my own way of handling things. I don’t feel I should be pressured… You’ve also got the right not to speak about something.”

Marcella returns to ITV at 9pm on Monday February 19.

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